Wow. Just wow.

Posted on February 28, 2011


I hope this isn’t unethical, seeing as this paper is for my ethics of computer technologies class. I also hope that it isn’t too cruel, though it probably is. In any case, I’m posting it. I can remove it if need be. But I promise you, I choose the .WORST. papers to edit. Out of the whole class I picked this one. I will not tell you all the things that I am saying to this person (as diplomatically as I can manage through muffled groans of disdain) about their paper as I “mock grade” it.

It reminds me of that time when I was in English class in 7th grade with Andrew N. and we were grading people’s tests or quizzes and we actually graded one that received a 2%. A 2%!! How do you do that and make it into the position you’re in (a senior in college and a 7th grader, respectively)?? I have no inkling. So I’m just going to let you read the paper.

All I did was bleep out the authors name and make the paragraph breaks since there is no indentation that I know how to do. The rest was all them. Enjoy…??

Peer to Peer file sharing
“A CD?, Hmmm never heard of it”
M——- B——–

The digital age is changing the World and if we can’t keep up, it will completely take over. According to as of June 30, 2010 1,966,514,816 people had used the internet. North America accounted for 266,224,500 users, or 77.4% of the population. (Internet World Stats, 2010) With over 75% of the people in North America using the internet how is anyone supposed to police everything. Person to person file sharing is a major concern with the internet, but to direct so much attention toward person to person file sharing of music seems like a waste of time, energy and resources. There are just too many people too keep track of. The key for everything transitioning into the new modern age smoothly is that people grow as a society along with technology.

It is almost as if the internet was designed to be this huge network of information that anyone could access at the click of a button, and since the dial up days the power and potential of the internet has come a long ways. The development of broadband facilitates music sharing. A soundtrack that takes more than 12 minutes to download with a dial-up connection can be downloaded in as little as 20 seconds with a high-speed connection. (Zentner, 2006) At that speed someone could download every album they wanted in just a few days, at most. There is no way that the record industry could stay afloat if it were to rely only upon hard copies of their product to stay in business, that is why they branch out in so many areas of the industry. Pirating music via person to person file sharing plays an integral role in the future of the music industry and its advancement. Instead of trying to police the internet and crack down on people downloading music, the record industry should be asking these people how to better serve them. How can we (the record industry) better serve you as a customer? Instead of viewing the internet as an enemy or obstacle, try using it as a tool.

Ethically, viewing person to person file sharing from a Rule Utilitarianism (RU) and Act Utilitarianism (AU). AU for the individual focus audience, in this case that is every person as an individual and the actions they are taking. Jeremy Bentham presented one of the earliest fully developed systems of utilitarianism. First, Bentham proposed that we tally the consequences of each action we perform and thereby determine on a case by case basis whether an action is morally right or wrong. (Fieser, 2009) It is possible most people who download music would admit that they have thought about the consequences of their actions, but still gone through with sharing the music. They do so because they feel that morally there are worse things. Where does this leave downloading music on the moral scale though. Are the few hundred million people out there downloading music immoral sinners? No they are just changing with the times.

This is where the groups aspect of RU comes into play. There are so many people downloading music that it has become the norm, and most everybody sees it as okay. Even people that don’t agree ethically with pirating music, admit that they have and sometimes do download a tune or two. The outrageously large number of people on the internet downloading music poses the perfect opportunity for someone to lose a sense of their identity while pirating music. In psychology class this is called de-individuation. The three most important factors for deindividuation in a group of people are: anonymity, so I can not be found out; diffused responsibility, so I am not responsible for my actions; and group size, as a larger group increases the above two factors. (Changing Minds, 2011) If people feel like they are a part of something larger, they will tend to follow what that group is doing. This is part of the reason why police officers and the various branches of the armed forces all dress the same. Anyway to make people feel strongly connected will result in them pushing the rules a bit over time. A great example and a famous one is the Stanford Prison Experiment. (Zimbardo, 2009)

The seemingly endless number of opportunities to download music makes it so easy. Websites like hype machine (, which filters through a collection of music blogs and picks the most popular artists and songs, offer web surfers the chance to listen to tracks before downloading them. But in order to download the song you have to visit the blog in which it was featured, and download it there. What does this make websites like hype machine? They could be the new record store, if the record industry plays the right tune. Maybe there is money to be made, maybe there isn’t but there is a lot of opportunity for exposure. Exposure is one of the ultimate goals because it leads to more ticket sales, commercials and other perks of being famous

The obvious argument for this stance is that the artists are not getting paid for their work. The reality is that the artist doesn’t make that much money off record sales, instead it is the record company that makes the most money. Exceptions are independent artists and labels that some argue are the back bone of music and is responsible for what music is today. Frontier Economics recently estimated that the U.S. Internet users annually consume between $7 and $20 billion worth of digitally pirated recorded music. (RIAA, 2011) This could be good reason for some people involved to raise a hand and ask questions about where their money is.
$7 – $20 billion is a lot of money, it is also a very large margin of error, about $13 billion actually. An interesting side note though, at its height before Napster was released the record industry was only pulling in $14.6 billion. Now sales have dropped to $7.7 billion. Adding the numbers up people are still buying either half of the music out there or they are buying roughly a third of the music being consumed. Either way there is still billions of dollars in profit.

As long as music is being made it is going to be copied, pirated and distributed in ways that the record labels would like to avoid by all means. Another trip down memory lane for the older generation takes us to the end of the 60’s and the height of the Grateful Dead. While the Grateful Dead did very well for themselves in record sales one of the things they were best known for was their concerts and the bootlegged albums that concert goers would make and give to their friends. The Grateful Dead was known for having decent studio albums which people had to pay for, and amazing live sets which were bootlegged by Deadheads. If it weren’t for pirated music one of the Gratest bands in history may have never reached the stars.
Today there are several bands that have found a solution to people pirating their music. Sound Tribe Sector 9 is a modern day jam band, similar to the Grateful Dead, that is changing with the times. While they have only 4 studio albums there are over 450 albums available for download on their website, most of which are live shows. Not only does STS9 offer all their music online for immediate download, but every artist on their record label 1320 records has their music available for download. It is not free but they are making it easily available for their fans, which is huge, and the price is not out of this world. In return the fans don’t upload a lot of STS9 albums so that people are encouraged to visit the site or go to a show. (STS9, 2011)

The technology we have at our disposal today is questionably to smart for us. With the advances in both internet speeds and the availability of computers now, millions of people have tons of power right at their fingertips. Everyone has computers capable of transfering enormous amounts of information, and there seems to be a format or space suited for every individual. The easy accessibility, large number of people pirating music and the availability people are going to continue to pirate music. The consequences are not realistic, multiple thousands of dollar per song fines. There are too many people in the World that have downloaded something to go after them all. If it comes down to being ethical every single person that has downloaded something should be prosecuted. That would take a really long time.

1) Internet World Stats, Initials. (2010, December 12).
Internet usage statistics the internet big picture
world internet users and population stats.
Retrieved from
2) Zentner, A. (2006). Measuring the effect of music
downloads on music purchases. CAPRI Publication,
05(03), Retrieved from
3) Fieser, J. (2009, May 10). Internet encyclopedia of
philosophy. Retrieved from
4) STS9, . (2011, February 18). Sts9. Retrieved from
5) RIAA, . (2011, January 1). For students doing reports .
Retrieved from
6) Beal, V. (2010, September 01). When is downloading
music on the internet illegal?. Retrieved from
7) Changing Minds, . (2011, January 01). Deindividuation .
Retrieved from
8) Zimbardo, P. (2009, January 01). Stanford prison
experiment. Retrieved from

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